Test cricket has seen a string of new dimensions added to it over the past few years. From the introduction of the ICC World Test Championship, to day-night Test cricket with the pink ball, to players’ names written on the back of their whites, there has been a concerted effort to revitalise the longest format of the game.
The latest addition in the International Cricket Council’s endeavor to sustain Test matches could be the introduction of four-day Tests. Last week, it was that the ICC could make four-day Tests mandatory from 2023 as part of the World Test Championship, primarily to free up the crowded calendar.
This idea has left the cricketing world divided. While there are plenty of former and current players who have raised concerns about tinkering with the format, there are also those who believe it is the right time for Test cricket to embrace the change and evolve with time. Over 60% of Tests since 2018 have not needed the fifth day.
Four-day Test matches: yes or no?
There is no denying that there are advantages to having four-day Tests. With the number of draws reducing and the majority of matches ending inside four days, it makes sense business-wise to not have a fifth day allocated. Playing 100 overs in a day for four days (two of which could be in the weekend) could prove to be just the kind of reinvention Test cricket, which often struggles for audiences, needs at the moment.
However, the purists are of the opinion that Test cricket is just fine as it is. As was visible in the South Africa-England match that ended in Cape Town on Tuesday, Test cricket can always provide fascinating fifth-day finishes. Also, the pitch gets worn out by the fifth day and becomes much more conducive for spin. In this regard, it could be argued that reducing the match to four days is unfair to spinners.
A number of former and current international cricketers have weighed in on this matter over the past couple of weeks, and their keen insights help in getting a better understanding.
Here’s a look at what some of them had to say:
In favour of four-day Tests
Tim Paine: “I think it should be taken into consideration. I dare say going back six or seven years if you let the players decide on pink ball that probably wouldn’t have happened. There is always going to be some give and take. I think there is some merit on it being in the odd Test like we did with England and Ireland. But I think the big marquee Test series, the Test championship stuff has to stay five days.”
Joe Root: “I think there’s merit to four-day cricket. Whether that’s across the board or can it be flexible - we’ve obviously played one against Ireland. I’m sure that pitch would’ve been fit for a three-day game. I do think it’s worth trialing and it might not always make sense for England to play especially if its against Australia or some of the bigger sides but it might draw a bit more interest with some of the countries who struggle to get people in the ground.”
Jos Buttler: “I think the administrators and broadcasters have got to look at the best way to preserve Test cricket. It’s the best form of the game, so how can we maintain that and keep moving the game on? If that’s the option, moving it to four days, that has to be looked at. I like that it’s five days, when you get a fantastic Test that finishes on day five with all three results possible there’s nothing else really like that in cricket. As with everything, times change, things change, and the game has to evolve with that. Everyone has to be open to change if that’s what is needed.”
Against four-day Tests
Virat Kohli: “According to me, it should not be altered. As I said, the day-night is another step towards commercialising Test cricket and you know, creating excitement around it, but it can’t be tinkered with too much. I don’t believe so. You know the Day-Night Test is the most that should be changed about Test cricket, according to me.”
Sachin Tendulkar: “There is T20, there is one-dayers and then there are T10 and 100-ball cricket. Test is the purest form of cricket. It should not be tinkered with. Spinners look forward to bowling with the scruffed ball, taking advantage on Day 5 of the roughs created on the wicket. All that is part of Test cricket. Is it fair to take that advantage away from spinners? Subcontinental teams, that have traditionally been good with spin, will be at a disadvantage. Which will be unfair.”
Nathan Lyon: “Ridiculous. I’m not a fan of four-day Test matches. I believe you’ll get so many more draws and day five is crucial. One, there’s the weather element. But the wickets these days are probably a lot flatter than they have been in the past, so it allows teams to bat longer and to put pressure on sides. You need time for the pitch to deteriorate and bring spinners in more on day five as well. Five-day Test matches, they are hard work especially if the conditions aren’t in your favour. You want to challenge yourself. I’m all against four-day Test matches.”
So, which side of the debate are you on? Will cricket’s longest format attract more eyeballs if it is reduced by a day, or is the idea of four-day Tests unnecessary?
You can leave your thoughts in the comments section here.